Locked down in an empty Lowe House

By Father Simon Gore

Normally, as the deadline date for the Pic gets closer, I have to remind whichever team member is on that month’s rota that they should get typing. This month, with my sense of time and date distorted, it has been my turn to be reminded by Peter, our editor, that something must be written. And as I look around and see not a single team member, it is down to me.

Yes, the Animate team left Lowe House at the end of March as lockdown began and for someone used to living in a community for the last few years it has been a strange and solitary life in the big house here. And now, as I sit down to write our monthly update, I realise I have drawn the short straw as there really is nothing to update anybody on. This term is usually incredibly busy. We have our usual retreats and missions, and also the Lourdes pilgrimage to plan for and the annual Faith in Action award ceremony to organise. Instead of that co-ordinated chaos, it has been – as readers will know from their own lives – a far simpler affair. With the schools not in, there has been no retreat work. Meanwhile, the Lourdes pilgrimage has been postponed and the Faith in Action event curtailed (although as we were coming to the end of the year, most young people have been awarded their certificates by post).

When all you would normally do has been cancelled, how to fill the time? I suppose it is a question most of us have asked ourselves. As I have nothing to update you on, I thought I might as well share what life in ‘Lowe House lockdown’ has been like!

As mentioned above, it is a big house and I have been very thankful for that over the last weeks. Yet it does present problems. I think half of my week must be spent cleaning. The slightly ill-fitting, old wooden windows are not great at keeping dust out. Perhaps I take it a bit far, though. I am not saying I am a ‘clean freak’ but getting cotton buds out to tackle the woodwork in the chapel might be considered excessive by some. As the house has got cleaner, I feel I have become more dishevelled. At the start of lockdown, I optimistically thought it would not last this long so decided I would not try to cut my hair and just grow a lockdown beard. Nine or ten weeks on, I am not sure that was a wise decision as I look at a different ‘me’ in the mirror every morning.

In order to get out of the house and avoid any mirrors, I have been spending more time in the garden. Those of you who know Lowe House will know there is a grotto and a Calvary scene at the bottom of the garden. Again, in a slightly optimistic view, I thought I would spend Holy Week cleaning up the Calvary scene. I eventually finished this week. Even though it has taken longer than expected (and I have far more thorn cuts to my hands and legs than I was anticipating), it has been good to do. There is something cathartic about seeing a visible difference at the end of the day. Hopefully people will be able to sit and use it as a place of quiet reflection. I certainly have done.

On the subject of prayer, I have found a personal rhythm to my own prayer life to be sustaining. I am lucky to have a (spotlessly clean) chapel to use each day for Mass. And I have the grotto at the end of the garden to pray the rosary. And the Calvary scene to just sit and think and perhaps allow myself to reflect on what our Saviour endured on the cross, but how new life and hope came after the suffering. In those prayers I have remembered all our Archdiocese. In particular, I have tried to keep a special place in my prayers for the young people; there must be so much anxiety and unease in so many families at the moment. I have to believe, though, that the Lord will offer His comfort to all those who suffer.

And I commend to the Lord all those who have died recently, especially those taken to the Lord through COVID-19. I was saddened to add the name of Bishop Vincent Malone to this list. As a younger person I remember seeing Bishop Malone at a distance, and then going to seminary I had a chance to meet the man behind the mitre. Latterly, he was a source of advice and support. Bishop Malone also holds a special place in the life of Animate as the first chair of our management committee. The diocese will be a poorer place for his loss, but we can be assured he goes to be with the Father in glory.

Your lockdown stories
We are looking to create some ‘News from lockdown’ stories for the Archdiocesan website to showcase what parishes/groups/individuals/schools have been doing. If you would like to contribute – be it with a brief 30-second video clip (selfie-style is fine) or a short written piece – please send it to me at s.gore@animateyouth.co.uk.

Anything you send in is covered by the diocesan privacy policy, which is as follows: ‘The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool is committed to keeping your personal data secure. We will share your videos and messages on our Archdiocese of Liverpool website. Please be reassured we will not use your details for any other purpose without contacting you for permission and your personal information will be held securely in accordance with data protection legislation. For more details on how we manage personal information, please see our privacy notice on our website at liverpoolcatholic.org.uk/privacynotice’.